Charleston wedding planner back behind bars facing 7 fraud charges in connection with May 2011 nuptials
When a judge dismissed a fraud count against Charleston wedding planner Robert Lawson Smith in February, prosecutors pledged his reprieve would be short-lived.
Charleston police made good on that promise Friday when they filed seven new fraud counts against the 37-year-old planner stemming from the same May 2011 wedding that spawned the case to begin with.
Smith, who also goes by the name “Lawson Roberts,” surrendered to Charleston police and is being held in the county jail on three counts of breach of trust and four counts of financial card fraud, according to jail records. His bail is set at $35,000.
Smith is accused of improperly using the credit cards of Adam Shearer, a Miami man who hired Smith to plan his wedding to his bride Wendy. Smith allegedly used the cards to pay off more than $26,000 in previous debts to vendors unrelated to Shearer’s wedding, according to arrest affidavits.
Charleston police had previously charged Smith with a single count of financial transaction card theft related to the misuse of Shearer’s credit cards. But that charge got dismissed at a February preliminary hearing due to inconsistencies in the dates and dollar amounts listed in an arrest affidavit. The initial loss stated hovered around $28,000.
Prosecutors vowed to serve Smith with new warrants based on each and every allegedly bogus expenditure investigators had uncovered. That’s what happened Friday.
Smith’s attorney, David Aylor, said police are mining the same set of facts but this time out have alleged that Smith ultimately shorted vendors rather than the couple who had the wedding.
Aylor said Smith doesn’t deny some vendors lost money on the event but insists his company took a $50,000 loss as well. Smith owns White Tuxedo Production on Barre Street, according to an arrest affidavit.
“It’s the same set of issues,” Aylor said. “To me, it seems this will be at most a civil matter, not a criminal offense.”
Charleston Police Sgt. Don Daquigan, a veteran fraud investigator, said the vendors will indeed be considered victims in the case. That’s because the credit card companies compensated the Shearers for their losses due to the bogus charges, leaving the vendors holding the bag, he said.
“The vendors did a service and they want to get paid,” he said.
Aylor said some of the vendors have since been compensated. He said he is still trying to pin down a final figure, but the outstanding losses are likely less than the $26,000 cited in the affidavits, he said.
Smith has insisted he did nothing wrong. He has said the couple authorized him to spend $63,000 on their nuptials and gave him permission to use their credit cards to stage the affair.
Smith has said he consulted with the couple on choosing vendors and all the charges incurred came from vendors who provided services for their wedding, though he acknowledged marking up the costs on some items, which he said is standard practice in the industry.
The couple have disagreed with Smith’s interpretation of their contract and said they only agreed that Smith would be paid a $2,500 retainer fee and 15 percent of the total cost of the wedding.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.